As a facilitation geek, I’m always on the lookout for interactive tools for workshops.
Sure, you don’t need fancy facilitation resources to host an effective workshop. But I enjoy having ready-made tools in my back pocket to engage tactile and visual learners. Otherwise, it’s too easy to just talk and point at post-its.
I’ve been noting down facilitation card decks for a few years now in a Trello board. At some point I discovered Nancy White’s 2010 blog post that introduced me to a bundle of new cards. Many of the links on that post are broken, so I thought it was time for an update and expansion.
My criteria for the list
Useful for group workshops. I’m interested in tools that help us work together better, as that’s what my work revolves around. I want card decks I can carry to any workshop to help me diversify the learning experience.
Beautiful. I can create low-fi resources myself any day. If I’m dropping hard-earned cash, I want the card deck to make the participants feel special.
Feels like a game. Remember the wonder and joy you got as a child playing Monopoly or Uno? That sense of discovery can support the purpose of your workshop. If it feels like play, people lose their need to impress others or maintain their ‘at work’ persona.
I’ve divided my list up by different purposes:
- Conversation Starters
- Team Dynamics
- Customer Experience
- Navigating Change
‘What do you do?’ Probably my most hated question. It means I’m about to have a booooring conversation.
These card decks help you dig below the mundane to build trust and relationships:
- What’s Your Story? is a tasteful set from Corban & Blair. Designed for family gatherings, but useful for all sorts of events. Price: US$29
- My teammate Toni Reid created a free conversation starter kit when we were working together at Lifehack. You can download these and print at your local camera shop for less than $10.
- Jori is pitched as ‘a cardgame that eliminates small talk from conversations’. It has conversation starters of two types. Weird questions and profound questions. I think it’s still in beta, so might not be available for purchase yet?
Customer Experience and Design
IDEO’s Method cards
Each of the 51 cards outlines a design process. If you’ve been part of any ‘design thinking’ workshops, some will be familiar.
Thing is — you can use them for more than just design method cards. Nancy White shares this:
I’ve been using these cards for years and in almost every way except as design method cards. I use the front side with the images to get people talking to each other or jumpstart brainstorming or stalled conversations. For introductions and starters, I spread the cards on the table(s) and ask people to pick a card that they are attracted to. I don’t tell them why. Then we do introductions with the cards. Sometimes I simply ask people to introduce themselves by saying why they were attracted to the card. To tie to the theme of the meeting, I’ll ask them to say something about the topic using the image. This requires more creativity and often more laughter — so if you need to break the “formality” barrier, the laughter is helpful.
When I need to help a group jump out of a rut or jumpstart thinking, we pull out the images and do word association just to get the mental juices going. Again, fun, funny and it works.
Price: US$49 from Stout Books
The Customer Experience Deck
The CX Deck aims to help you understand the emotional needs of your customers/clients/users. You choose the emotions you most want them to feel, and the ones you want them to avoid.
I used the CX Deck on my own to think about my client relationships. It was fun to move the cards around and notice how I worked. And I have since used the language to help describe my approach.
The real beauty would be in working through this in a team, so I hope to have the chance soon.
Price: Not yet released. Sign up for advance notice at riders&elephants.
This is less of a card deck and more of a recipe book for interactive workshops. The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures is a book by Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless that shares 33 ‘micro processes’ that you can use to run a meeting, event or workshop.
One of the Liberating Structures community members has created some DIY design cards that you can download, print and cut out for free.
Plus, there’s a functional app that contains all the processes with explanations about how and when to use them.
Catalyst — a change-makers game
Core Education designed Catalyst to support inquiry learning in schools. Inquiry learning mirrors design and problem solving processes, so I suspect this would be just as useful in the adult world.
It helps you to challenge each other’s practices and ways of working to move towards action.
Price: NZ$92 from Core Education
The creators call the Foresight Cards a “macro / contextual analysis tool”. Um, say what? Basically it helps you experience and think about external factors that might impact your work. It has 125 possible ‘external factors’ and encourages you to recognise past patterns to help you navigate the future.
It looks flexible, with workshop guides for:
- business model testing
- scenario planning
- SWOT analysis
- systems thinking
- and more.
The Emotional Culture Deck
If you work in a team where you don’t have an agreed team culture, this might be the tool for you.
It’s a kickstarter for conversations about how you want to feel at work. Often we ignore this stuff. Instead we just grumble about each other to our partners or any co-worker who’ll listen.
The Emotional Culture Deck is from riders&elephants, the same people who created the CX Deck I reviewed here. So you can expect a beautifully presented and well-considered card deck. Plus, Jeremy has produced a bundle of supporting resources.
Price: US$99 for one pack, $350 for a team of 5, $650 for a team of 9. Also, you can download and print it for free to check it out.
The Retrospective Game
Whoever came up with this one has a wicked sense of humour. Just read the image below to see what I mean.
Giving feedback is hard. I remember reading about research that shows people’s adrenalin levels skyrocket when giving or receiving feedback. I’ve just ordered a copy of the game, and I’m hoping the rudeness of the game will be a good foil to that.
Price: $25 with free shipping
Superpowers Card Deck
“One way for a team to draw on all its strengths is to know and activate each member’s superpower. This deck of cards will help you uncover yours.”
So reads the copy on the SY Partners site.
I could see myself using this this deck near the start of a team-building workshop to uncover people’s personality traits and skills. It’s a beautiful card set and your purchase unlocks online content at superpowers.sypartners.com.
Understanding and navigating different cultures
I haven’t found anything else quite like Diversophy® and I’d love to give it a go.
It’s designed to give you the cultural know-how to work with people of other backgrounds. It has about 60 games on doing business with various countries.
If you work internationally, this would be perfect to help you navigate those cultural mindfields. It reminds me of a story about my Nana — I think she was visiting Mongolia. “Your house is so homely” she said over dinner at her homestay. The room turned stony cold. Turns out “homely” suggests she was sleeping with the man of the house! (She wasn’t.)
Price: US$229 and up
…modern organisations are like zoos: they are unnatural environments where animals not naturally associated with each other are clustered into small cages and forced to interact, sometimes against their will.
This card deck introduced me to the wonderful online community of the Organisational Zoo.
It’s a tool to categorise people’s thinking preferences so you can better understand how to work each other. ‘Ohhhh you’re a Bee and that’s why we keep clashing!’
It covers similar ground to the Hermann Whole Brain Thinking Model, the Myers Briggs’ personality test and many others.
But it’s a bit more edgy. (Usually I can’t stand that word, but it applies here.)
Just look at the Vulture card in the image above. Vultures are “nasty, opportunistic, scavenging, self-centred and dangerous”!
Think carefully before using this card deck. You’ll want to make sure there’s a solid foundation of trust.
Looking for more tools?
Did nothing in there take your fancy? While researching this post I found Vanessa Miemis’ 21 Card Decks for Creative Problem Solving, Effective Communication and Strategic Foresight. It has a whole different list of design tools. Explore away!